Art History toys (ctd.)

May 8 2017

Image of Art History toys (ctd.)

Picture: Faller

Some years ago I brought you news of a Playmobil set featuring Albrecht Durer. A reader has now discovered that the model makers Faller in Germany do a very fine scale model of Durer's house. Available here

Job Opportunity!

May 8 2017

Image of Job Opportunity!

Picture: Viking Cruises

Viking Cruises are looking for a resident historian/art historian. You need to spend eight weeks on board at a time, and the first task listed on the Association of Art Historians website is to give a weekly lecture. The only catch is that the "Presentation material and associated teaching notes will be provided by Viking". So you're just a performer, basically. 

Apologies

May 8 2017

Image of Apologies

Picture: BG

I'm sorry for the scarcity of news last week - I was on the road for telly purposes. One exciting moment involved filming the most exciting (and reassuring) cleaning test I've ever seen. More news soon, I hope.

This is not Shakespeare (ctd.)

May 3 2017

Image of This is not Shakespeare (ctd.)

Picture: AHN reader

Yikes - someone has gone to the trouble of making a bust of the Cobbe portrait. It's been on display at the Globe Theatre in London. More here

Ed Sheeran portrait at the NPG

May 3 2017

Image of Ed Sheeran portrait at the NPG

Picture: PA

The National Portrait Gallery in London has commissioned a portrait of 26 year-old pop singer Ed Sheeran. I'm not entirely sure why.

More here

Charles Saumarez Smith's new book

May 3 2017

Image of Charles Saumarez Smith's new book

Picture: John Sandoe

Regular readers will know that AHN is an admirer of all things Charles Saumarez Smith, and in particular his blog. I mentioned before that it is being turned into a book, and you can now order a copy here, should you be tempted. I am. Also, in the Evening Standard yesterday I chanced upon an interview with him, in which he reflects on his time at the National Gallery:

At the National Gallery, where Saumarez Smith became director in 2002, there were further triumphs, including the saving for the nation of Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks. But there were signs of dissent among the staff and, in 2007, Saumarez Smith announced he was moving to the RA. What happened?

“Well, at the National Gallery there’s a tradition that the director is a sort of super-curator, above all other curators. I’m not that and never pretended to be. I felt the curators looked down on me because I hadn’t been to the Courtauld; I’d merely been to the Warburg, which was a kind of lesser place. I was, in inverted commas, a cultural historian. So I was made to feel not very comfortable.”

There's a saying in academia that the politics are so brutal because the stakes are so small. I think you can say the same about museums. 

Trump's new threat to the arts? (ctd.)

May 3 2017

Image of Trump's new threat to the arts? (ctd.)

Picture: Met Museum, detail of Rubens' 'Atalanta & Meleager'

I mentioned last month President Trump's planned abolition of one of the main government arts funding bodies, the NEA, and what that would mean for museum exhibitions in the US (in summary, very bad news). Happily, one of the many climbdowns Trump has made in his budget negotiations with Congress means that the NEA has survived. The Art Newspaper gives us the lowdown:

A bipartisan spending bill that is expected to be passed by the US Congress this week not only preserves but increases funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The NEA and the NEH are both set to received $150m in 2017, a $2m boost over last year. The Institute of Museum and Library Services will also see a $1m increase in its budget, bringing it to $231m, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will also keep its funding.

The agencies were among 19 independent federal offices facing the axe under President Trump’s proposed budget this year, which aimed to siphon more government spending towards defense at the expense of many popular public programmes. There was widespread criticism of the plan from arts groups as well as from Republican politicians like former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance. 

The new Congressional deal avoids a threatened government shutdown by providing funding through the end of the fiscal year on 30 September. 

Trump's new threat to the arts? (ctd.)

May 3 2017

Image of Trump's new threat to the arts? (ctd.)

Picture: Mail

Apparently Trump's family commissioned a portrait of him as President before he even won. It's by someone called Craig Campbell, who according to the Mail is "considered one of Scotland's leading portraiture and figurative artists". More here

What a difference a hat makes

May 1 2017

Image of What a difference a hat makes

Picture: Sotheby's

If you were impressed by the $10m Govaert Flinck sold in New York last week, but don't fancy spending quite as much, then the above portrait by Flinck is being offered by Sotheby's in London on Wednesday (in their mid-season Old Master sale) for £20k-£30k. A snip!

Ok, there's more to it than just the presence of a fine red hat, as seen in the New York picture. But the disparity in price is one of the reasons why I find the Old Master market so exciting, and mysterious. Because value is often so dictated by image - say, an interesting or attractive sitter in a portrait, as opposed to ugly sitter - it's sometimes possible to find as good a demonstration of an artist's technical virtuosity in a painting for £20k as you'll see in painting that costs $10m. 

You can browse the rest of the sale here. There are some fine pictures, including this handsome portrait (see, even I'm swayed by image) by Hoppner of Sir George Murray, one of Wellington's key generals. That seems cheap at £15k-£20k. Hoppner seems under-valued these days. 

Update - the Flinck made £75k. The Hoppner £56k. AHN always picks winners...

Christie's New York Old Master sale (ctd.)

May 1 2017

Video: Christie's

Christie's Old Master sale in New York seems to have performed well. The pre-sale estimate was $18m-$28m, and the final total was $32.76m. Granted, the latter figure includes buyer's premium, and the extraordinary $10m result for the Govaert Flinck sale I mentioned last week. But it's still a respectable figure for Christie's new April sale (they used to be in January, alongside Sotheby's), and the total also reflects well on Christie's new team in the New York Old Master department, which is led by Francois de Poortere (seen in the video above). In recent years Christie's New York sales have not fared well

Aside from the Flinck, the top-selling picture was an altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes, which until recently has been on loan to the Met in New York. There, it's distinctive appearance (as the video above explains, in the 18th Century part of the painting was scraped down) made it a popular exhibit. Some might say that a period of loan to an institution like the Met made the picture valuable, and helped it sell for nearly $9m. But I'm not sure museum exposure always works like that. After all, does a painting become a great painting because a museum exhibits it - or does a museum exhibit it because it's a great painting? (Incidentally, isn't that a good video; clearly explaine, brief, good close-ups. That's all you need.)

Other lots to note; the newly discovered Titian I mentioned earlier didn't quite beat expectations, selling at $547k against an estimate of $600k-$800k. Happily, the sleuthing buyer who spotted it in a sale in Switzerland still came out ahead. A painting by Lancret, Autumn, only made $1.2m, which represented a full 50% below the lower estimate of $2m - though it still set a new auction record for Lancret apparently. Another auction record ($511k) was set for a picture by Michaelina Woutiers for this rather unconventional Portrait of a Lady. A St Barbara by Francesco Francia made $1.44m (est $500k-$600k). You can see the full results here

'Picturing Places' at the British Library

May 1 2017

Video: BL

The British Libray has launched a new section on its website, 'Picturing Places', which allows you to:

Discover the role and history of topographical views, maps and texts through over 500 examples from the British Library’s collections and beyond, with fresh research in over 100 articles and films from an academic conference hosted by the British Library and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Above is a video of BL staff digitising a giant map. More here

A museum director's commute

May 1 2017

Image of A museum director's commute

Picture: FT

In the FT, Dr Gabriele Finaldi discusses his daily commute into the National Gallery, and how he keeps up to date with the art world via publications such as The Burlington (AHN does not get a mention; can you believe it?). His commute into London is via train, and naturally, London being a city that is now consuming itself, a seat is rarely available. By contrast, Finaldi preferred his commute in Madrid, which was by motorbike:

I was a keen moped rider in Madrid and I miss it. You can zip around quickly and stop off to buy bread or pop in to see an auction. But my wife will not let me have one here. I like the freedom of it and the element of adventure — and the guarantee you will be home when you say you will be.

I'm glad to hear of another motorbiking art historian. I think we ought to form a club...

'Hogarth was a hack'

May 1 2017

Image of 'Hogarth was a hack'

Picture: Yale

In Apollo, the great Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson has reviewed Elizabeth Einberg's new catalogue raisonneé of Hogarth's paintings (incidentally, what a sharp piece of editorial commissioning). Rowson is a fan of Hogarth, of course;

For cartoonists like me, Hogarth is the grandfather of our profession. In elevating visual satire to the level of art, he bequeathed us a vision of the 18th century summed up in his own eponymous adjective. As Robert Hughes wrote in The Fatal Shore, describing the world from which the first convict settlers of New South Wales were transported: ‘Modern squalor is squalid but Georgian squalor is “Hogarthian”, an art form in itself.’ Moreover, the new school of British art that Hogarth boasted that he’d founded with his Modern Moral Tales – shot through as they are with narrative, polemic, and mockery – leads far more obviously to Gillray, Cruikshank, and modern political cartoons (the last redoubt, incidentally, of allegorical painting) than to Constable or Reynolds.

He concludes that Hogarth was something of a 'hack' - but in a good way;

As well as being both artist and artisan, he was also quite often something of a hack, just like me. It’s another badge I suspect Hogarth, counting the swag, would have worn with quiet pride.

'Michelangelo & Sebastiano' (ctd.)

May 1 2017

Video: National Gallery

Here's a new video from the National Gallery in London about Sebastiano and Michelangelo's relationship, which is charted in letters shown in the NG's new exhibition

'An Art Lovers' Guide...'

May 1 2017

Video: BBC

Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke have a new series beginning on BBC4 tonight, called 'An Art Lovers' Guide'. Each week they visit a city, with the first being Amsterdam. BBc4 9pm, more here

Selling Nazi looted art in Austria (ctd.)

May 1 2017

Image of Selling Nazi looted art in Austria (ctd.)

Picture: Im Kinsky

As far as I can see, the looted van der Helst knowingly offered at auction in Austria last week didn't sell. 

Update - I was wrong, it was withdrawn just before the sale. A reader has alerted me to this piece in the New York Times by Nina Siegal, which includes this reasoning from Dr Ploil of Im Kinsky:

Ernst Ploil, director and chief executive of im Kinsky, said the auction house had received about 30 hostile emails, “accusing us of being Nazis and of collaborating with Hitler.” Some contained threats, he said.

The owner was worried that if he sold the painting, “maybe his car is ruined or his house is set on fire,” Dr. Ploil added. “He was afraid.”

Dr. Ploil said the owner did not think he was morally obliged to refrain from selling the work.

“It’s not for moral reasons,” he said of the decision to withdraw the painting. “It’s not that he doesn’t feel he is acting on totally a legal basis. It’s only because of the pressure.”

Restitution news (ctd.)

May 1 2017

Image of Restitution news (ctd.)

Picture: ATG

A marine painting by Simon de Vlieger has been returned to Poland more than 70 years after it was stolen during the Warsaw uprising. The painting surfaced in a German auction house last year. More in the ATG here

Flinck Mania!

April 27 2017

Image of Flinck Mania!

Picture: Christie's

Amazing news from today's Old Master sale at Christie's in New York; a 1646 painting by Govaert Flinck of an old man (above) raced to over $10m from its estimate of $2m-$3m. This is by some margin a new record for Flinck, but the astonishing thing is that last appeared at auction in 2011 in London it made £2.3m (the estimate then was £700k-£1m). This tells us a number of things: the Old Master market is still full of surprises; Flinck is on the up (and quite right too); and that valuing art is always really, really difficult. 

New Dutch and Flemish curator at the National Gallery

April 27 2017

Image of New Dutch and Flemish curator at the National Gallery

Picture: Linkedin

Congratulations to Bart Cornelis, who (I see from Codart) is the new curator of Dutch and Flemish art 1600-1800 at the National Gallery in London. Bart has recently curated the Adriaen van de Velde exhibition at Dulwich, and for the last 15 years has been deputy editor at The Burlington Magazine

8%

April 26 2017

Video: Hiscox, via Art Market Monitor

Only 8% of the art market occurs (if that's the right word) online, according to Hiscox's annual online art market report. The reason why? There are many reasons, but a key one is that when surveyed, 88% of people worried about an artwork 'looking different' in real life as opposed to the image online. This of course is true; it always amazes me how much a digital image can distort a painting, for example. Scale is also hard to assess.

Will it change? There's a conviction out there that the online art market will sson grow significantly. I think there is indeed scale for growth, in terms of people transacting online (ie, bidding). But there are limits. Above all I think an online presence has to go hand-in-hand with a physical presence. Because there is always so much risk associated with buying art (condition, authenticity, forgeries) online buyers will I think always want to be comforted by the knowledge that there is company with a physical premises at the heart of the operation, with contactable specialists, and of course the ability to inspect the work in person should you wish. So it's no surprise that Sotheby's and Christie's top the online art market rankings, and companies trying to function as online-only platforms are failing, like Auctionata, which recently went into liquidation. I don't think it helps either that the likes of Auctionata often fail at the basics, like providing good, high-resolution images, as well as videos - in other words, all the things that you need to give a buyer if they can't actually physically inspect an artwork.

It's worth remembering also that new distance-selling regulations, which afford online shoppers comfort when buying items they haven't physically seen (with generous refund rights) don't apply in auctions. 

Finally, few auction houses have yet realised that in order to provide a good online art buying service you also need to provide all the other online services that people now take for granted. When I go to Amazon, for example, I select my product, and can then spend almost as much time again in selecting my delivery options, to get the product safely delivered at a convenient time. How often can you do this as an online art buyer? Not often enough. When it comes to buying art online, once the hammer falls you get sent an invoice, and then that's pretty much it. The auction house rarely wants to hear from you again, except to say that unless you organise to have your lot picked up soon, storage charges will be incurred. As my school reports used to say; must do better.

Update - I should also point out that online platforms like the-saleroom.com, Invaluable and Bidsquare have lamentable image zoom functions.  

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